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Venturing forth: soundpiece

24 February 2020

The article at a glance

An entrepreneur, currently studying for the Masters in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School, hopes to inspire people to create beautiful music …

An entrepreneur, currently studying for the Masters in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School, hopes to inspire people to create beautiful music within a few clicks.

Pierre du Toit spent the past decade as an actuary developing artificial intelligence products and sought to marry his knowledge of mathematics with a passion for music. He consequently created a new venture designed to make music creation a joyful process accessible to everyone.

“Music plays an important role in our lives,” says Pierre. “It is a universal language that helps to communicate stories, evoke emotion and ultimately move and inspire us. However, it’s incredibly difficult to create an original piece of music.”

His venture, soundpiece, is a digital platform enabling just about anyone – not just musicians and composers – to create custom music by using artificial intelligence. If someone is looking to create a new musical piece, they register on the platform, choose a style (e.g. rock or cinematic), a mood (e.g. calm or energetic) and instrumentation (e.g. piano or orchestra) – and the platform’s algorithms will then create an original piece within seconds. Users can also edit and refine the music that was created or remix existing songs using soundpiece’s algorithms. The business model consists of a fee to download songs as well as monthly subscription and licensing fees to access the algorithms.

Jonny Knowles, a freelance video editor and one of the customers who has been using the platform, said: “I loved how simple it is. It used to take me hours to find a song to use for my documentaries. Now I get a catchy song in minutes. I am also an amateur musician and love the fact that I can edit the songs to add a bit of my own creativity to them”.

Pierre was born in South Africa and studied mathematics at the University of Pretoria. He earned a masters in Music while studying at the University of Stellenbosch and the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He has played cello since the age of six and understands the challenges people face in creating new music.

Pierre splits his time between London and Cambridge, where he attends lectures at Cambridge Judge for his Masters in Entrepreneurship, a two-year, part-time programme he began in September 2018. He chose the programme because it mixes theoretical and practical knowledge: “I have been able to apply the learnings to soundpiece in areas such as digital marketing, website design and lean development.”

During the creative industry module of the Cambridge Judge programme, some of the opportunities and challenges of the $19 billion global music industry were covered. Pierre says the economics in the industry leads to a heavily skewed income distribution with most money going towards a few popular artists and companies. Staying true to one’s artistic ambitions can therefore become challenging when there is pressure to create music with mainstream appeal. For Pierre, however, overcoming the challenges in the music industry is worthwhile because – as he explained at Cambridge Judge Business School pitch event last year – “for me music is absolutely wonderful because as Bono rightly points out, it can change the world because it can change people.”

The use of artificial intelligence in the music industry is quite new Pierre says, but there’s a huge potential market for this kind of technology in an industry that contributed £5.2bn to the UK economy in 2018. Looking ahead, Pierre is positive that soundpiece’s unique offering will enable them to capitalise on this exciting opportunity. “Music is an incredibly powerful part of the world we live. Across generations we have often ‘worshiped’ the creators of great music, primarily because their ‘collection of sound’ moves us, said Russell Gould, who is Pierre’s mentor at Cambridge Judge Business School. “This is what is so exciting about soundpiece! It democratises the ability to create really great music and makes this capability accessible to the masses.”